Great Balls of Fire, Knockin’ on Heaven’s, Good Vibrations, Maybe Baby, Ain’t That a Shame : N.W.A.

“Straight Outta Compton.” Priority/Ruthless.*** 1/2

Underground rap--angry and full of the coarsest street language--is slithering into the mainstream, dragging the reality of the black ghetto with it. On this album, N.W.A jams reality down our throats.

This Compton crew, an all-star group featuring Eazy-E, Ice Cube and M.C. Ren, presents a searing, uncompromising view of ghetto life. Many will find parts of the two angriest, most explosive songs-- "---- Tha Police” and “Gangsta Gangsta” downright shocking.

What’s unusual about this album is that N.W.A doesn’t dilute its hard-edged material with any prissy moralizing. That’s the aspect that many will find most offensive--even more so than the searing street language.


One of N.W.A’s points is that the black ghetto is a subculture that operates on different rules. Through rap, they want to tell it like it is. By mainstream rules, for instance, this material would be condemned as brutally sexist. But in the ghetto subculture, this approach to women is a fact of life. N.W.A would no doubt argue: This isn’t sexism, it’s reality.

Much of this material is funny, but unsettling--like Richard Pryor’s best and darkest humor about the black community. To appreciate this remarkable, disturbing album you have to approach it for what it is--a no-holds-barred, audio-documentary of ghetto life.